Friday, March 23, 2007
What would you take if you had to pack your entire life into a single suitcase and run?
Justice Michael Majuru had to make that decision when he fled Zimbabwe four years ago.
Sitting in his modest apartment in Pretoria, South Africa, he is searching for some mementos of the home he left behind to help me illustrate my report. There's not much, just his Zimbabwean passport and the suitcase he shared with his wife. He's apologetic about not finding any photographs because he had to pack in such a hurry.
Michael Majuru is one of the three-and-a-half-million Zimbabwean exiles in South Africa. Back in 2003 he was a judge living comfortably in Zimbabwe. Then he was asked to preside over the court case of The Daily News. The newspaper had been closed down for refusing to apply for a license. Justice Majuru heard the case and ruled that the independent newspaper that regularly irritated President Mugabe's government should be allowed to re-open.
The government was furious. Majuru told me that was when Zimbabwe's intelligence service started to harass him. When he heard reports that he might be arrested the judge went to the South African Embassy -– a day later he and most of his family had visas so they could go into exile in South Africa.
The minister who Majuru alleges pressurized him to prevent the Daily News from reopening and threatened that he would be arrested is Zimbabwe’s Minister of Justice Patrick Chinamasa. I called him from South Africa as I wanted to include the Zimbabwean government’s perspective in my story. The minister said he would talk to me later but he never seemed to pick up his phone. Finally I resorted to texting and much to my surprise I got this message back ...
Then he sent me this text:
"BY THE WAY AND WITH THE GREATEST RESPECT, WHICH IMPERIALIST IS SENDING YOU TO KICK TO LIFE A DEAD FALSE STORY/ALLEGATION? AND WHAT DO YOU HOPE TO ACHIEVE BY KICKING A DEAD HORSE?"
Meanwhile Michael Majuru is studying for a masters degree in Human Rights Law, and he tells me he has no regrets about standing up to the Zimbabwean government. "I didn't believe that I did anything wrong and if the same situation were to arise I would do precisely the same thing again, it was worth it."
-- From Femi Oke, CNN Johannesburg Bureau
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